Hello. My name is Abby. I struggle with volume control. I am regularly told to settle down in public situations. I enjoy myself a good ol’ fashioned party.
And I am an introvert.
Until recently, I always thought that the words “introverted” and “shy” were synonymous. That there was no way I could be an introvert. I pride myself on being loud and outgoing. Thanks to the number of friends I’ve made in the bathrooms at parties, my Instagram followers to following ratio is truly on point. I love dancing in most every social situation. How could a gal who loves being with other people be an introvert?
Well news flash folks – none of those qualities are related to whether one is deemed an introvert or an extrovert.
It’s not about whether or not you’re shy or outgoing. Whether or not you’d rather spend your Saturday at the bars or in your bed.
It’s about where you get you’re energy from. It’s about the setting that best refuels and recharges you. It’s really not about where you apply your energy.
The Myers & Briggs Foundation explains this well, so below are the definitions from the experts.
Extroverts “like getting [their] energy from active involvement in events and having a lot of different activities.”
Introverts “like getting [their] energy from dealing with the ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions that are inside [their] head, in [their] inner world.”
When I read these definitions, there’s no doubt in my mind that I’m an introvert. I do love being alone. Some of my best days are spent strolling by myself, stopping at coffee shops and bookstores along the way, listening to a NPR podcast and living in my thoughts for hours on end.
And while these days have been some of my best, I’ve always felt bad having them. I’ve advertised the social part of my life and hid the solitary. Because I thought I was an extrovert. And because I’m loud and [kind of] funny, I thought I always had to be loud and [kind of] funny.
I felt guilty when I wanted to stay in and binge watch “Parks + Rec” instead of going to that new, cool bar. I was embarrassed when I opted out of going to the football game and instead went to the mall, alone. I considered myself a social person; so then why was being social so unbearable sometimes?
Because I’m a goddamn introvert, that’s why.
I thrive at parties – for three hours. After three hours, I need to go home. I need to be alone. I need to let the night soak in and not talk to anyone until morning. I just need a second to breathe and recharge.
In an The Atlantic article, Jonathan Rauch said, “introverts are people who find other people tiring.”
That doesn’t mean that introverts don’t like people or that they are awkward or quiet around people. It just means that sometimes, we need a break. We may exert our energy around other people, but we don’t get our energy from other people.
It’s like going on a roller coaster or something. For a few hours, you love the ups and downs and the twists and turns. You run from one line to the next, soaking it all in. But after a while, you’ve got to press a pause button on the go-go-go. Maybe you head to the merry-go-round or one of those air-conditioned 3-D movie rides. You’ll be back on the roller coaster tomorrow. You just need a minute.
For introverts like me, social settings are the roller coasters and those air-conditioned 3-D movie rides are solo dates to the movies. They’re just a necessity for survival.
For a while, I didn’t want to admit this newfound label to other people, as much as it resonated with me. As much as it explained so many of my patterns and behaviors. Because I do believe there is a stigma against introverts. I think people believe that introverts are awkward and isolated and lonely. Heck, that’s what I believed.
All it takes is a little bit of knowledge – a little bit of effort –to sort out this misconception. To show that neither extroverts nor introverts are better or worse. To show that these terms’ only jobs are to help you better understand yourself; not to help you better judge or make assumptions about others.
Featured image by Lindsay Thompson